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The full extent of the loss of livestock in Australian bush fires is yet to be defined, and it would take several months before the concerned Australian organizations put a number to the extent of that loss. But it can be said with some conviction that the impact is considerable given that Australia is one of the world’s largest exporters of bovine meat.

Initial estimates, according to a host of Australian news media organizations suggest that 2.3 million cattle were in the areas affected by bush fires across Victoria and New South Wales which equals to about a substantive 9 percent of Australia’s national cattle herd.

Moreover, these areas had been severely affected by drought for a long period prior to the incident of bush fires; the resultant lack of feed and water for the cattle, also contributed to livestock loss. Responding to a query, Ashlea Miles, the CEO of an Ag-tech company called Training Paddock, told BR Research that more than 38 percent of the national cattle herd has been sold or liquidated due to shortage of feed.

According to Trade Map data, UAE and Saudi Arabia are major export markets for Pakistan’s bovine meat, where it competes with Australian meat exporters. Even though the UAE and Saudi Arabia are smaller markets for Australia, she gives tough competition to Pakistan.

The UAE imports on average about 18 percent of its total bovine meat from Australia and about 15 percent from Pakistan, while in Saudi Arabia, Australia has an upper hand. The UAE and Saudi Arabia together constitute almost 60 percent of Pakistan’s total bovine exports.

However, as it turns out, meat isn’t just meat. Looking at Trade Map statistics, out of Australia’s total bovine meat exports to the world, 97 percent are in the boneless category in both forms, fresh&chilled and frozen. Of this, about 5 percent is exported to the Middle East in fresh and chilled form while about 3 percent is in frozen form.

Given the nature of the product, it will take time for Australia to regrow its livestock to its pre-fire number. With Australia’s obvious disadvantage, can Pakistan tap this gap created, especially in the Middle East to which it exports the most? One question to ponder over is that Australia operates mostly in the boneless segment while Pakistan’s trade is concentrated in the carcasses and bovine cut (excluding carcasses) category.

Australia’s meat export to the UAE is $67 million on average in fresh & chilled and boneless categories. If Australia gives up its entire share in the UAE to ensure its supply in bigger markets such as Japan, the US and Korea, then Pakistan has a chance to increase its boneless bovine export by more than twofold.

But while this advantage exists on paper, the question is whether Pakistan possesses the capacity to fill this possible void created by Australia’s livestock loss? Is demand governing Pakistan’s concentration in carcasses and bovine cut trade or does Pakistan lack the capability and/or quality to compete in this segment? These are some of the questions which will be answered in this section tomorrow.